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Maps Hardcover – September 8, 1999

Book 1 of 3 in the Blood in the Sun Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Maps and Gifts (see below) are the first two volumes in Farah's second trilogy, Blood in the Sun (after the acclaimed, three-volume Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship), but they stand as prequels to the previously published, award-winning third volume, Secrets (1998). This pair of works by Farah, a chronicler of modern Africa's sociopolitical turbulence and growth who has lived in exile from his native Somalia since 1974, are being released in hardcover in the U.S. for the first time, though they have been available abroad for several years. Of the two novels, Maps is the richer in concept and execution, beautifully worked in the dense, intricate prose for which Farah is known. Askar, orphaned as a child, is rescued from his dead mother's side and raised in a small village by Misra, an older woman who develops a mysterious, protective bond with him. Even when he moves to the capital to live with his prosperous Uncle Hilaal, Askar's origins continue to preoccupy him, and he grows into a serious, introspective youth fixed on the urgent question of his identity. Hilaal, the cook and nurturer in his city home, is able to provide some answers for his baffled nephew on the subjects of African tradition, Somalian manhood and selflessness. Employing a poetic, imaginative style, Farah skillfully juxtaposes Askar's emotional turmoil and the struggles of his beloved Somalia under siege, as the characters try to understand why blood must be shed for territorial gain. In the end, Askar must choose between avenging his soldier father's death by joining the army, or pursuing his academic studies, but the choice is taken out of his hands by powerful external forces. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Intended as the first two books in the author's "Blood in the Sun" trilogyAthe third being Secrets (LJ 5/1/98)Athese novels are a moving study of life in Somalia before the civil war. Maps is the story of Askar, found as a newborn beside his mother's dead body and raised by Misra, an outcast in the village because of her Ethiopian heritage. Years later, during the war with Ethiopia, Askar must choose between his country and the woman who raised him when Misra is accused of betraying their village to the enemy. Gifts tells the story of Duniya, a nurse trying to raise three children alone in the capital city of Mogadishu. When she decides to accept responsibility for an abandoned baby, she must confront the patriarchs of her family, Somalia's male-dominated bureaucracy, and her own fierce independence. In both novels, Farah has eloquently woven dreams, memories, and folklore into modern tales of ordinary people trying to live their lives with dignity in the midst of famine, colonialism, and longstanding ethnic hatreds. With their own unique styles and engaging characters, each novel easily stands on its own. Recommended for all libraries, even those that do not own the third novel.AEllen Flexman, Indianapolis-Marion Cty. P.L.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing (September 8, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559704853
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559704854
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,465,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Ultimately, Askar must self-identify as he grows amidst a nation whose very map changes around him.
There are times when I can't tell if a sentence is just missing its ending punctuation, or the last part of the sentence is actually missing.
While it does this, it also maps the contours of the psyche of Askar in the most lucid and poetic manner possible.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I don't know a lot about African literature, and what I had read about Nurrudin Farah was a little intimidating, but this book was recommended to me by a friend who read it when it was first published in ENgland, and since then I've read the whole Blood in theSun trilogy (Gifts and Secrets follow). The books have taught me a lot about Africa and Somalia especially. But this book is, quite simply, a great novel, regardless of what continent it comes from. Farah writes like no other author I have ever encountered: he really makes the language come alive in a very special way. I'm convinced he's one of the most brilliant writers alive today.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By G. Cingal ( on November 19, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is one of the major contemporary African novels to date. Its author, the Somalian English-speaking writer Nuruddin Farah, has been in exile since 1975, because he opposed Siyad Barre's military regime. Since Barre's eviction from power and death, Farah has chosen to stay abroad. The novel was published in 1986 and comes first in a trilogy that also includes GIFTS (1992) and SECRETS (1998). It is the story of a young orphan, named Askar ("soldier" or "arm-bearer" in Somali), who, as he thinks, killed his mother at his birth. During his infancy and early childhood, he shares everything (except his dreams) with his foster-mother, a woman of Oromo origin named Misra. In Kallafo, where he stays until the age of seven, he is happy and at one with Misra. Then, because of the different political problems that threaten Ogaden (the Ethiopian area mostly inhabited by Somali speakers and claimed by Somalia as its own), he is sent to the Somalian capital, Mogadiscio, where he lives with his maternal uncle, Hilaal, and his uncle's wife, Salaado. There, he tends to become a fierce patriot, though his moods are moderated by the presence of his uncle and his aunt, two loving but demanding intellectuals. At the age of 17, Askar sees Misra again. This is during the 1977 war in the Ogaden, and Askar has been misled into thinking that Misra betrayed Somali patriots. The whole story is told by three different voices, each of which the third case, the tale is more "objective", with Askar being referred to as a classical novel character ("he"). On the whole, Askar's dilemmas and split personality make up a deeply felt and immensely rewarding work of fiction. As the end shows, there is always fiction in life, but perhaps not the way you would expect it
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By scribehermes on July 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
Personal or political. That is the question. Nuruddin Farah says that everything is political. What does the term political mean? I think it implies the dynamics between the ruler and the ruled. What we see as political writing today has essentially to do with the state. But even within the smaller segments of the state and the society, even within human consciousness, there is the ruler-ruled dichotomy. So everything is political. But the response to that is individual, characteristic of the human being, and hence personal. The political manifestation in the personal life of Askar is what the book is about. While it does this, it also maps the contours of the psyche of Askar in the most lucid and poetic manner possible. Farah is a Somali shaman who weaves the tale of Askar in the oral tradition of Africa.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This 1986 book was the choice of the international book club at my local bookstore. Basically, it is about a search for identity. Set in Somalia and Ethiopia, the orphan Askar's mother dies at his birth and he is brought up by a servant woman named Misra. There's definitely a love bond between them but these ties are strained and then broken as he grows up, especially when he is sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Mogadiscio.

The story includes the thoughts of the young man, dream sequences and the complex politics of the time and the place. Interpersonal relationships are prominent, especially that between Askar and Misra as well as Askar and his aunt and uncle who are quite educated and introduce him to a more cosmopolitan world.

As war rages its horrors intensify the question surfaces as to whether or not Misra is a traitor or just another pawn in the ongoing war and Askar matures has to deal with several questions about her loyalty to his country. The truth is never confronted directly. It is up to the reader to make his or her own judgments.

There is no doubt that this is a fine book that introduced me to a culture I knew little or nothing about. However, the many dream sequences just add to the confusion as to what actually happened. I soon grew impatient with this book and even though I can respect it and appreciate the unique viewpoint the author brought to it, I found it difficult to follow the plot and much too sad and depressing for my taste.
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